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You always remember your first time: Turning a new leaf

Laura Wilson
By Laura Wilson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, November 3, 2005
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A few weeks ago, someone told me that he didn’t like my column because it was “just the rambling of a white girl.” I think he was trying to insult me, but it’s hard to find insult in the truth, and it’s even harder to take to heart the words of someone who I just don’t like. In fact, it was pretty amazing to have someone really understand what I’m doing: I am a white woman (although I prefer the term “pigmentationally-challenged female”) and these are my ramblings (also known as “insights”).

That’s not to say that my quest to figure out what the heck it’s all about has anything to do with race, sex, gender, culture, socioeconomic level, the ability to count to 10 in five different languages or age, although I suppose that some would argue differently. The bottom line is that I’m just seven weeks shy of being thrust into the real world (cross your fingers), and I’m just trying new things so I can decide exactly what I’m doing. Someone once told me that college is all about new experiences, and I’d hate to think that I threw away that opportunity.

Lately I’ve been wondering if this college has all been worth it. Sure, my eyes have been opened to all sorts of new worlds, but the overachiever in me has prevented me from enjoying most of them. Somewhere along the way I crossed that thin line between too much work and not enough play, but it didn’t really bother me until I realized that no number of “A” grades would make me as happy as enjoying my life could.

When an extremely kind, intelligent and amazing woman offered me her cabin on Mount Lemmon for a weekend, I almost declined. That pesky voice in the back of my mind reminded me of impending deadlines, projects and presentations in various states of undone and household chores that needed my attention. Luckily, the part of me that likes free trips out of town proved more agreeable.

I’d never experienced the wilderness high above our valley, mainly because I’m not much for camping. I don’t like being dirty or peeing in bushes, and the way I see it, if I was meant to sleep on the ground, I wouldn’t have a comfortable mattress in my bedroom. However, much to my surprise, camping is no longer an exercise in vagrancy. In fact, the word “cabin” does absolutely no justice to the homes we saw, all of which had running water, gas heat and satellite television. If this is what camping is all about, I can’t help but feel like I’ve been missing out.

Not to be outdone by luxury, nature pulled out all the stops. As we drove up the mountain, we saw the leaves in various shades of yellow and red. In my backyard, the leaves only change from green to dead, so to say I was impressed would be an understatement. I was also struck by the stark contrast between life and death as I viewed such vibrant trees interspersed with the devastation left behind by the 2003 Aspen fire.

Around every corner there was rebirth and rebuilding. A community that refused to live in the destruction of the past, the inhabitants of Mount Lemmon were all focused on the future. While the shops we visited all hung photos depicting the before and after of the fire, they were focused on providing service to the throngs of tourists who enjoy the mountain as an escape from everyday life in the valley.

I cooked hot dogs over a fire, burnt my mouth on flaming marshmallows and slept better than I had in months. Sometimes you have to take a step back to figure out what is really important in life, and it very rarely has anything to do with grades or test scores. It seems to me — and keep in mind that these are “just the ramblings of a white girl” — that life is too precious to waste in classrooms and textbooks. Unfortunately, deadlines never go away. Hopefully I’ll find a balance before I get that wakeup call from the real world.

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